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Stacey Barr
Stacey Barr
Performance Measure Specialist

Stacey Barr Pty Ltd

How Can We De-Clutter Bulky Performance Reports?

Posted over 7 years ago

It’s getting close to becoming a natural law of performance management that performance reports only know how to grow, not how to shrink.

Despite the fact that we all know large reports just won’t be read, we still struggle to take information out of them.

But “Bob” asked for it!

There is story after story about how several years ago “Bob the Manager” wanted a particular measure – say revenue earned per employee – and it’s been reported ever since. Even though Bob only wanted it for a couple of months and left the organisation two years ago!

After a succession of “Bobs” with their ad hoc measures and lack of skill in how to determine the information they need most, performance reports become bloated and unusable.

But we might need it… someday…

There’s also the belief that “we just might need that information one day, so let’s keep it in there.” It’s a symptom of not focusing or prioritising, of not really knowing what the purpose or role of the performance report is. It’s trying to be all things to all people for all time.

When attention scatters, nothing matters (that just came out of my head, but it sounds groovy – like it should be a mantra). The point is, performance reports are supposed to focus us so we can take action on what needs our action the most. We’re stupid if we think we have to solve every problem, set targets for every aspect of our work, and monitor everything that can be measured.

The processing power of our conscious brains, coupled with the number of hours in a day and the lack of resources we always complain about, forbid it. Performance reports are supposed to focus us.

But that’s what Business Analysts are for…

The bulk that many performance reports have also makes navigation through the report a nightmare. The report becomes an unbearable effort to produce. And the amount of data that has to be collated and analysed keeps analysts punching away at their computers through their lunch breaks and until 9pm for several nights after the end of month.

And of course the users of the report don’t really know which information they should give priority to, and which is only noise drowning out the important business performance signals.

Performance report writing tends to be a fairly evolutionary process, where it can shift and change and adjust almost every month. Often many people that contribute content to the report, such as graphs or commentary or project progress updates (and usually way too much of these latter two), don’t really know how the information will be used. Most believe the information won’t even be used at all.

Performance reports need to be simpler and more focused! But how?

JOIN THE DISCUSSION: We have to be very deliberate and very disciplined about the types of information performance reports should contain. And that’s going to require a rationale and some guidelines. What are yours? <a href “”>Share your ideas for how we can de-clutter our bulky performance reports at the <a href “”>Measure Up blog.

Comments (4)

William Barney
William Barney
Director at 2GC Active Management

great article Stacey on a problem that besets many if not most organisations!

At 2GC Active Management we work with clients by starting with “choosing our priorities” then working with them to define and measure these – the performance report that results has far less redundancy and a far greater focus therefore than the norm.
Best wishes

Posted about 7 years ago | permalink
Semih Akcan
Semih Akcan

Really good article about performance reports and it is really sad that we (performance reports soldiers:)) couldn’t find the practical solution as one blue or red pill.

Posted about 7 years ago | permalink
Verheye Samuel
Verheye Samuel
France Telecom - Orange

Hello Stacey,

Indeed, a true reality what you describe in your article: “Reporting for the sake of Reporting”.
At a certain moment I decided to cut 50% of the KPI’s my team had to produce and ‘waited’ for the reaction of the people in the distribution list of the report.
The result was that only a few complained that their KPI was not included in the report. So the next report took us 50% less effort to produce.

A continual improvement plan – supported by top management – is the best way to shrink the obese Dashboard to a size where only the usefull KPI’s remain.

Another effective way is to calculate the cost to produce a KPI and present the bill to the department….it’s amazing how quick people decide to drop their KPI.

Finally, surely something you know, workload can be decreased through highly automation of reporting using a centralization of data (DataWarehouse); some good program and format standardization of the KPI-reports.

…let’s hear the stories from others!

Posted about 7 years ago | permalink
Stacey Barr
Stacey Barr
Performance Measure Specialist

Verheye, I love the idea of costing the KPI and presenting the bill! Obviously only tongue-in-cheek, but want a wonderful reality ‘check’ on exactly how much the information we don’t use is costing us.

Posted about 7 years ago | permalink

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